Listen to this article

A tip of the hat to Arcola High School, which for two decades has celebrated Veterans Day with an invigorating, one-of-a-kind, student-led assembly.

Patriotic participation among the younger set is rampant.

Kindergartners help lead the audience in the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Elementary students decorate hallways, junior high kids the gym. Nick Lindsey’s football players park cars. Speech class emcees the event. FFA club lines the driveway with American flags. High schoolers write thank-you notes to veterans who attend and those who can’t at Carriage Crossing and Arcola Health Center. The drum line, band and chorus provide entertainment. Some years, even pre-K students get involved by marching through the gym to “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

“The kids definitely look forward to this every year,” teacher and event organizer Emily Coombe said.

On Nov. 11, area veterans will be treated to a noon luncheon (thanks, Jo’s Country Kitchen) before the 1:30 p.m. assembly, which will be livestreamed on the school’s Facebook page. Afterward, the Arcola VFW will host an Unservicable Flag Ceremony (worn and tattered flags can be dropped off in advance at Arcola’s library and post office as well as Arcola First Bank and First Mid Bank & Trust Arcola).

All in all, a wonderful day.

“These kids are athletes and musicians, used to performing in front of a crowd. But to speak in front of hundreds, to execute a plan and to know they are honoring men and women they admire — some they know, some they don’t — (brings) relief and pride, every time,” Coombe said. “When the veterans say ‘thank you’ and shake their hands or give them a hug — it makes the anxiety and nerves disappear. What’s left is pride that they could give something back.”